How to Bring Website Visitors Back with Retargeting Ads (The RIGHT Way)


It is DIFFICULT to get someone’s attention online.

According to eMarketer, in 2013 the average American spent over 5 hours per day on the internet.

That’s the AVERAGE…

And while 5 hours per internet user sounds like plenty of time for someone to look at funny cat photos AND visit your website…

Unless you’re an expert most paid marketing channels appear risky and expensive.

For instance, I’m working with a small business right now that provides an answering service for lawyers and doctors.

Most of their traffic comes from organic search and their email newsletters.

Since they are focused on servicing clients in a very specific geographic location, they don’t receive a huge amount of traffic, nor do they have a large budget to test out online ads unless they know with some level of certainty that it will work.

Whether this sounds like your business or your traffic is more substantial (i.e. 10,000+ unique visitors per month), it’s critical that you do everything in your power to maximize the likelihood that every visitor will convert into a lead or sale.

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to do this is to setup retargeting on your website.

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What is retargeting?


I started running a retargeting campaign on the AutoGrow website and blog last week and we’re already seeing results.

The whole idea behind it is pretty cool.

Here’s how it works:

  1. A visitor arrives on your website, and a cookie is set on his or her browser
  2. The visitor leaves the website without taking action
  3. While browsing other websites, like Facebook, Youtube, or any other website that serves banner ads, ads from your website will be shown to that cookie’d visitor, hopefully drawing them time click and come back to your website.

Is remarketing the same thing as retargeting?

There’s some confusion on this point so here’s a quick rule of thumb to clear it up.

Remarketing is commonly used when someone is followed-up with via email (or in the past, with direct mail items). For example, there are remarketing services like Rejoiner and Carthook for ecommerce businesses that will send customers who didn’t complete their purchase a series of email follow-up sequences.

Retargeting also involves follow-up but using display ads across third party websites. Sometimes called “site retargeting” it generally means the above explanation, where a website visitor get’s a cookie tracking file placed on their browser and then that website’s ads follow him or her around the internet.

Alas, Google has choosen to muddy the waters a bit by using the word remarketing to refer to it’s search retargeting feature in Adwords. This is an exception to the generally held definition.

There are other types of retargeting, like “dynamic / product retargeting” which is commonly used to show visitors ads based on specific products or sets of products they viewed.

If you go to Amazon and search for tripods or other camera production equipment, you will likely find later on that ads for the exact (or similar) products you viewed are now following you around the web.

Now let’s get into some of the nitty gritty of how you do retargeting by first looking at the recommended self-service tools available…

Recommended retargeting services?


Since I’ve used most of the most top retargeting tools on the market today, I feel confident in advising on you which one’s are best and their strengths / weaknesses.

Perfect Audience is the service that the AutoGrow team and I personally use and recommend for quickly setting up and running your retargeting ads.

Their user interface is simple and easy to understand, they are very transparent as to what you need to do to get started and how long it takes, their analytics and conversion tracking is excellent, and finally their support staff is helpful and relatively timely in getting back to you if you have a question.

Perfect Audience works with small and large ad networks giving you plenty of reach. As soon as your ads are approved — which was almost immediately in my case — your ads will start showing up. The larger ad networks might take more time to approve and show your ads.

Here’s what our ads currently look like:


If you want a $70 free trial you can click my affiliate link for Perfect Audience here.

Adroll is the largest competitor to Perfect Audience and the self-proclaimed “leader” with 3X the number of customers by comparison.

I actually used Adroll prior to Perfect Audience. Their setup process is comparable in terms of simplicity and time to wait (your website has to cookie a minimum number of visitors before your ads will begin running).

However, my experience using Adroll was very poor. Their support staff were less than helpful, and even though my ads were marked as approved for several weeks, I did not know they had been rejected by the large ad networks.

More over, they seemed completely unwilling to give me clear answers as to why or what I could do to make them better. It was a mystery (although I later found out the real reason, which I’ll tell you about in one of my tips, coming up).

Both Perfect Audience and Adroll let you retarget across Facebook and Twitter as well.

Retargeter was the very first retargeting platform I used. However, my experience working with them was significantly worse than Adroll.

Their user interface is simple, though a bit confusing and lacking in terms of self-serve features compared to Adroll or Perfect Audience.

Overall, I would best describe my experience working with them as “shady.”

Their website does not clearly explain that you are billed in minimum increments of $500 (I was kicking the tires at the time to find the best solution before starting), and when I called their support staff for a refund they were less than helpful.

Google Adwords

In order to setup Google search retargeting you’ll need to have an Adwords account. I have not found any service that integrate their retargeting functionality so setting up an adwords account for this is your only option.

Frankly, it’s more than worth it because Google offers an extremely useful option called “Remarketing Lists for Search Ads” (RLSA). This allows you to target your ads to people on Google who have recently searched for keywords related to your business.

  • Key point: Since your targeting of ads to their users is based on their recent search intention, this can have a profoundly positive influence on your conversion rate (unlike “identity-based” ad targeting on something like Facebook, which does not necessarily align with a person’s intention or need).

Google also allows you to do general purpose retargeting, but I recommend you stick with something like Perfect Audience for this. Adwords interface is cluttered with other features (more relevant to general purpose search ads). Plus, they does not currently allow you to do retargeting on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

So now you know what retargeting is and where you can setup your own campaign. Let’s go over a few key tips to make sure your first retargeting campaign is successful.

Retargeting Tips & Best Practices

Tip #1 – Use a simple landing page (and a word of caution…)

When you launch your first campaign, don’t make the amateur mistake of sending traffic to your homepage. People who click on your ads directly to a landing page with a specific offer.

Remember, the purpose of a landing page is to drive conversions (i.e. filling out a form or entering one’s email address). To do this there are key elements on a page, like a headline, navigation options are restricted (to keep the visitor’s attention focused on the offer), and a call-to-action. You can read more about creating a effective landing page here.

When I first launched our retargeting campaign, I made the mistake of using a landing page with a lot of text and too many design elements.

I came to realize this after I saw a poor conversion rate of about 6%.

I knew this was a poor conversion rate for several reasons:

  1. I was offering something for free (our free lead generation course)
  2. Landing pages with similar offers were converting between 30-70%
  3. The nature of retargeting is that you’re pulling back people who have already been on your website
  4. I asked two people for feedback. One had no marketing experience, and the other is a friend who is a web marketing expert; both gave similar responses. The expert recommended I look at something like Hubspot’s landing page, which was simpler and uncluttered (see screenshot below).
  5. I knew the value of a conversion (which I talk about below in tip #5) and my cost was significantly greater than that conversion value.


So to improve our conversion rate, I went I looked at other  landing pages that I knew were performing better, like this template from (below) and I modeled my updated landing page after this.


My campaign is still new since I made this update so I cannot give you a data-backed answer at this time. However I’m confident the net conversion rate is more than triple what it was before.

  • Word of Caution: As I mentioned above, I started out using Adroll before I switched to Perfect Audience when I found out my ads were not approved, not running, and I couldn’t do anything about it (according to their super-helpful support staff). After some digging and pushing I managed to find out if your landing page is “salesy,” makes claims about performance, or the sales copy is aggressive (as mine was), consider making some changes before submitting your ads — because you might not be approved by the larger ad networks.

Tip #2 – Setup conversion goals (on Google Analytics as well!)

In addition to your landing page, make sure that after a desired action is taken the visitor is redirected to a “thank you” page of some kind, or some other location they could not arrive at from any other place on your website.

You then want to take the URL of that thank-you page and set it as your conversion goal for your campaign. With a conversion goal setup, you will have no idea of how the money your spending is driving results (or not) for your business.

Ideally you should have the same conversion goal(s) setup in Google Analytics so that you can compare results to make sure the numbers match. This will give you piece of mind that your campaign tracking is properly setup.

Tip #3 – Don’t retarget everyone

All of the retargeting services I discussed in the above section give you the option to exclude certain visitors from your retargeting campaign. People who are excluded will not see your ads.

This is important because you don’t want to waste money and time on visitors who have already converted on your offers. In addition, this can be particularly annoying to those visitors.

Here’s what I recommend as far as who to exclude in your retargeting:

  1. Exclude people who have already converted on your campaign’s goal (i.e. they’ve filled out your form and reached the thank-you page) OR who have reached another key post-conversion (thank-you) page on your website.
  2. Exclude people who are already on your email list. An ideal retargeting campaign converts visitors coming back to a website with free offers (as I’ll talk more about below) that are designed to capture email addresses for follow-up and relationship nurturing. Perfect Audience and other providers allow you to insert a snippet of tracking code into your email newsletters so that people who open your newsletters get a cookie placed on their browser. This does not work for Gmail user, but one work-around is to cookie subscribers when they click a link.

Both of these exclusion options are imperfect (there will still be some people who are shown your retargeting ads who don’t need or want to see them) but the net result is substantially better.

Tip #4 – Focus on capturing emails with free offers & incentives

Think about it. You are targeting your ads at people who have visited your website in the past but have not converts on what they saw while on your website.

In addition, you COULD present to them offers like “a free consultation” or simply reminding them “Hey, this is our product, remember? Come back and hopefully this time you’ll buy it.”

But using this strategy will have a net lower conversion rate than if you offered something for free with less perceived risk or commitment.

Here are some ideas of what your free offer can look like:

  • Free downloadable report or whitepaper
  • Free video lesson
  • Free email autoresponder course
  • Free evaluation
  • Coupon incentive (best for ecommernce businesses)
  • Limited time free shipping (best for ecommerce businesses)

In addition, by focusing on capturing an email address you are “leveling-up” that anonymous visitor in your sales funnel to a higher and more valuable state of engagement. This is because email marketing has the highest ROI of any online marketing channel (1000% higher than social media, and 2X greater than SEO according to the Direct Marketing Association).

Tip #5 – Accurately estimate the value of a conversion

This tip is critical because it allows you to know whether or not your retargeting campaign is profitable or it needs to be tweaked.

Let’s say that acquiring a new customer is worth $50 (maybe it’s worth more in the long run, but let’s assume it’s $50 because we’re looking to recoup our cost of acquiring the customer quickly).

Then let’s assume the average email subscriber has about a 10% change of making a purchase (if you have data to know for sure, great). Based on a newly acquired customer’s worth being $50, this means each new email collected is worth $5 ($50 / 10 = $5).

That means that you cost of conversion must be less than $5 in order for you to sustainably acquire new customers with your retargeting ad campaign.

If you CPA (cost per acquisition) is greater than or equal to $5, you should continue to tweak and optimize your ads and landing page to bring that number down.

Advanced Retargeting Tips

2nd level retargeting

After you’ve captured someone’s email address, assuming you have a higher-ticket item or service to offer him or her and the CPA is less than the estimated conversion value, you should continue to retarget the visitor.

The difference is that this time you want to show her a different set of ads and a landing page in line with the new offer.

The idea is to “keep leveling-up” the buyer-seller relationship step-by-step. The initial free offer serves as a platform to build trust and permission to follow-up further while the 2nd level offer invites them to come with you to the next stage in the buyer-seller relationship.

Increase your page speed

There is a substantial amount of research on the web that documents the relationship between the speed of your website (i.e. the time you have to wait for a page to load) and your conversion rate.

For example, Walmart found that when load times jump from 1 second to 4 seconds, the conversion rate dropped. Specifically, for every 1 second improvement in load time, they observed up to a 2% increase in conversion rate.


I was recently on a webinar from and KISSmetrics where this point was brought up. One customer, who is also a reputable marketers explained that in testing, hosting his landing pages on their platform resulted in a measurable improvement in opt-ins.

For this reason, I plan on hosting our landing pages on the Instapage platform in the near future (Instapage is a landing page tool similar to Leadpages). Longer-term, we’ll experiment with hosting cached, “code-minified”  (to save on bandwidth) versions of our landing pages on Amazon’s servers.

Conclusion (and bonus)

Remarketing is still a relatively new advertising technique yet most businesses ignore this low-hanging fruit opportunity. It takes a maximum of 5 hours to setup with minimal maintenance required over time. Here’s a quick review:

  • Retargeting bringing back visitors who left your website having your ads “follow” them around the web as they browse.
  • There are a number of self-service tools out there today that help you get up quickly and affordably, like Perfect Audience and Adroll.
  • Your ads don’t have to be complicated, check out how simple our initial batch of ads are above.
  • Retarget visitors with free offers with the goal of capturing an email (initially) and send them to a simple landing page. Make sure to setup goals and don’t retarget everyone.
  • After you’re up and running, consider finding ways to increase your conversion rate like improving the speed of the landing pages in your campaign. You can also setup a “second level” retargeting campaign directed at those people who converted on the first one.

To help you get started faster and create better retargeting ads from the start, I’ve put together a bonus PDF with my “Retargeting Click Formula” which you can download by entering your email below.

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Can you think of some other advanced retargeting tactics?

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